EU pledges to raise money in search of coronavirus vaccine

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EU states will be joined by Norway in filling the immediate global funding shortfall estimated by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board

World | The Independent

The European Union will set up an international medical programme to lead the global response to fighting coronavirus with an initial pledge of raising $8bn (£6.3bn) to find a vaccine and treatment for the pandemic.

The virtual pledging conference next Monday was organised following Donald Trump’s suspension of US contributions to the World Health Organisation after accusing the organisation of colluding with the Chinese government in hiding the initial outbreak of the disease.

Heads of states and senior officials of the European Union, writing in The Independent, have declared their support for the WHO while unveiling the plan to work with scientists and international welfare organisations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to counter the contagion.

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The EU states will be joined by Norway in filling the immediate global funding shortfall estimated by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB). Vaccines and treatments, say the leaders, will be made available throughout the world to developing nations with an emphasis on states in Africa.

The urgent need for international unity in the crisis, and the warning that no country can go it alone, is stressed in an article in The Independent signed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel; French president Emmanuel Macron; Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte; Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg; European Council President Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

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The article says: “We are building on the commitment by G20 leaders to develop a massive and coordinated response to the virus. We are supporting the call to action that the World Health Organisation and other global health actors have made together.

“For this reason, we have launched the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global cooperation platform to accelerate and scale-up research, development, access and equitable distribution of the vaccine and other life-saving therapeutics and diagnostics treatments.

“This laid the foundation for a real international alliance to fight Covid-19. We are determined to work together, with all those who share our commitment to international co-operation. We are ready to lead and support the global response.”

Mr Trump had initially welcomed a G20 meeting hosted in Saudi Arabia aimed at a concerted effort to fight the pandemic. But a lengthy communiqué due to be published at the summit in April was replaced by a short statement after the condemnation of China and the WHO by the US administration.

The President’s halting of American funding of the WHO, the largest contribution to the organisation’s budget, has been criticised by a number of Western states and the secretary-general of the United Nations.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been the second-largest funder of the WHO. Mr Gates said of the US president’s move: “Halting funding for the World Health Organisation during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped no other organisation can replace them. The world needs WHO now more than ever.”

Mr Trump has also invoked the US’s Defence Production Act to restrict exports of key medical equipment and supplies meant for other countries, including allies. The restrictions have, however, been relaxed since then for some states including the UK.

The article by European leaders and officials continues “... None of us is immune to the pandemic and none of us can beat the virus alone. In fact, we will not truly be safe until all of us are safe – across every village, city, region and country in the world. In our interconnected world, the global health system is as strong as its weakest part. We will need to protect each other to protect ourselves.

“This poses a unique and truly global challenge. And it makes it imperative that we give ourselves the best chance to defeat it. This means bringing together the world’s best – and most prepared – minds to find the vaccines, treatments and therapies we need to make our world healthy again, while strengthening the health systems that will make them available for all, with a particular attention to Africa.”

“If we can develop a vaccine that is produced by the world, for the whole world, this will be a unique global public good of the 21st century. Together with our partners, we commit to making it available, accessible and affordable to all.”

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